Race watchdog faces cash crisis

SUFFOLK'S cash-starved race relations watchdog today said it could be closed within the year.Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (Iscre) has been struggling to better community relations ever since 1977, but funding cuts have left it struggling to survive.

SUFFOLK'S cash-starved race relations watchdog today said it could be closed within the year.

Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (Iscre) has been struggling to better community relations ever since 1977, but funding cuts have left it struggling to survive.

The Commission for Racial Equality slashed the money it gives to Iscre by around 45 per cent this financial year.

Iscre is due to find out today how much money it will get for next financial year.


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But unless it receives more money, there is a real risk it will close.

Chairman Hamil Clarke said this was the worst situation Iscre had ever been in.

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He said: "If we don't get any more funding from the CRE, the risk is that Iscre will close down within a year unless we find funding from somewhere else.

"We should be concentrating on a development plan to take the organisation forward in a proactive way. Instead we are just trying to survive."

Albert Grant, a founder member of Iscre, said: "We do tremendous work helping members of the community - mostly ethnic minority people - who suffer racial abuse, councils or the police.

"It is the number one group for all the ethnic minority groups in the town. If it closes, the ethnic minority community in Suffolk will suffer tremendously. It will be a terrible loss."

Mayor of Ipswich Roger Fern added: "Iscre is a key player in maintaining positive relations between different parts of the Ipswich community. There are lots of people who would be very vulnerable without it."

Its funding from the CRE was cut from £47,000 in 2003-2004 to £26,000 in 2004-2005 because, Mr Clarke said, the CRE decided Iscre was not meeting agreed levels of work.

Had Iscre's director not left, it would have had to consider making him redundant.

It now only has one paid member of staff - the office administrator.

Mr Clarke and vice-president Harold Mangar - both volunteers - are doing the bulk of Iscre's work, with support from other Iscre members.

But its agreed work for this year include advising more than 50 individuals and families, assisting more than 20 schools and taking on four workplace discrimination cases.

Mr Clarke described the Catch 22 situation: "We don't have the money to employ somebody to do the work, but if the work doesn't happen, we won't get the money next financial year."

Mr Clarke said Iscre's work was suffering.

They are not in the community as much as they would like, they cannot offer training to employers or organisations, they cannot get involved in rural communities and they are finding it difficult to ensure every employer has an equality plan.

Iscre, which also receives money from several local authorities, has applied for £133,000 from the CRE for the next three years, which would pay for a director and an officer. It is also approaching other bodies for funding.

A CRE spokesman said: "Where awards have been reduced, organisations gave failed to meet the CRE's strict funding criteria.

"The CRE changed its funding framework in 2003, focusing on outcome-based projects and bringing it more into line with other funding bodies."

Are you worried about Iscre? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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